His Excellency Dr. Tabaré Vázquez
President of Uruguay
His Excellency Dr. Tabaré Vázquez Rosas began serving his second five-year term as President of the Republic of Uruguay in 2015, after having served a first term from 2005 to 2010. He was a practicing oncologist until recently and was Professor of Oncology at the National University of Uruguay.
During his first term, President Vázquez prioritized tobacco control as a public health strategy and committed his country to full implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). As a result, President Vázquez and Uruguay emerged as world leaders in the fight against tobacco. During his first term, Uruguay:
- Became the first 100 percent smoke-free country in the Americas region.
- Required graphic warnings covering 50 percent of the cigarette pack, later increased to 80 percent, the largest graphic warnings in the world at the time.
- Limited tobacco brands to one presentation and banned misleading labels such as “light” and “low-tar.”
- Imposed a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, sponsorship, and promotion.
- Significantly increased tobacco taxes and prices.
- Developed a national tobacco cessation treatment network.
These efforts have significantly reduced tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in Uruguay. Youth tobacco use fell by an astounding 65 percent (from 23 percent in 2007 to 8 percent in 2014), while adult tobacco use decreased by 28 percent (from 32 percent in 2006 to 23 percent in 2011).
President Vázquez’s leadership has been felt throughout Latin American, where many countries followed Uruguay’s example. In less than a decade, Latin America became the WHO region with the highest number of countries adopting tobacco control legislation, including 16 countries enacting 100 percent smoke-free laws.
Uruguay’s global leadership made it a target of tobacco giant Philip Morris International, which challenged Uruguay’s warning and labeling laws as a violation of an international investment agreement – a tactic the industry increasingly has used to fight strong tobacco control measures. Philip Morris thought it could bully a small country into backing down. But Uruguay stood firm in defending its landmark laws, sending a resounding message that countries should not and will not be intimidated from taking strong action to reduce tobacco use and save lives. A ruling in this five-year-long legal battle is expected shortly.
In his second term, President Vázquez is stepping up Uruguay’s fight against tobacco. He has significantly increased tobacco taxes and announced plans for legislation requiring plain tobacco packaging. Through these and other actions, President Vázquez continues to defend what he considers a fundamental human right: the right to health.